Cardiovascular diseases: world’s deadliest disease group

Josephine Chinele, CNS Correspondent, Malawi
About 57% of persons who smoked smoking 30 cigarettes per day for 25 years died of some cardiovascular disease (CVD) as compared to only 36% of non-smokers, says the World Health Organisation (WHO). It further says that a long-term study of men aged 40–59 years found a significant connection between tobacco consumption and death by CVD. The WHO information also points out that tobacco use is a universal but avoidable risk factor for many diseases, including CVDs.

Apart from tobacco consumption, raised blood pressure (hypertension), raised blood glucose level (diabetes), obesity and physically inactivity, are also high risk factors of developing CVDs. CVD is a term used to describe a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels and includes coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, congenital heart disease and deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. 31% of all global deaths are attributed to CVDs – this equates to roughly 17.5 million deaths annually. In 2012, an estimated 7.4 million of these deaths were due to coronary heart disease, while 6.7 million were due to stroke. Doctor Srinivas Ramaka, chairperson of Srinivasa Heart Foundation, says that currently there are major gaps in affordability and availability of basic health technologies and essential medicines, particularly in low and middle income countries, to tackle the problem of CVDs. “The lack of access means that patients delay seeking care and either develop complications unnecessarily or pay high out of pocket costs, which can financially devastate households,” Dr Ramaka stressed during a webinar organised by Citizen News Service and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease.

As is often the case in global health, the poorest are affected most—more than three quarters of the world's deaths from CVDs occur in low- and middle-income countries. People in these countries often do not have access to basic health care, which can provide early detection and treatment for people with risk factors. As a result, many people in low and middle income countries with CVDs are detected late in the course of the disease, resulting in lower survival rates. Programme development manager for World Heart Federation, Alice Grainger Gasser says that, “CVDs and other NCDs hit the poor the hardest. They kill or disable bread winners on whom the family members depend. And in most cases, there is no social protection to buffer income loss”.

Malawi joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Heart Day on September 29, 2016. To celebrate World Heart Day 2016, the World Heart Federation launched a new tool aimed at helping individuals better understand the factors that put them at a higher risk of developing a CVD: The Heart IQ test. This simple test helps individuals explore ways to reduce their risk of developing a CVD. According to the World Heart Federation, addressing behavioural risk factors can prevent most cardiovascular diseases. Unlike other diseases, CVDs affect all race types and genders in nearly equal proportions. However, they do target one group more: the aged. As a person gets older, the heart undergoes changes–even in the absence of disease –increasing the livelihood of contracting a CVD. Controlling risk factors and taking charge of heart health can reduce the chances of heart attack or stroke by more than 80%. Early detection and proper treatment are key. By addressing an issue before it arises, both individuals and countries can reduce the cost of treatment and loss of life due to heart diseases.

Josephine Chinele, Citizen News Service - CNS
September 29, 2016